Lecture 7. The Geo-Politics of the Khmer and the Construction of Vrah Vishnulok

This lecture is Part 2 of the Angkor story. It focuses first on the economic positioning of the Angkor, a story that is rarely told. The problem for Angkor was that it was founded in a forest, not along the shore as most other SE Asian Palace economies. The problem was how to get their rice to market. Their purpose was to produce a rice surplus economy. But the problem they were not close to the trade routes. To their advantage was the fact that the Chinese were in trouble and needed rice. The shift from silk to tea by the Chinese also allowed the Khmer to piggy-back to the NEW tea route to China. But the rice part of the story is never told. Just as with the silk of the silk route that made up only a small part of its economy we tend to focus on the tea part and forget the rest. To connect to the tea route, the Angkor engineers built amazing roads to the north. The rest of the lecture focuses on Vrah Vishnulok (Angkor Wat) one of the great world masterpieces of architecture. I emphasize its design, purpose and also include a discussion of its unique engineering, also rarely told, though it is certainly one of the great accomplishments of the times.

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Lecture Notes